How Has Nintendo Maintained Relevancy?
How Has Nintendo Maintained Relevancy?
Nintendo is the most-renowned video game company in the world, with a long history dating back to the 1980’s. Very few video game companies can rival Nintendo’s achievement and influence in the industry. I mean, this is the company that has single-handedly saved the industry. I would be so bold to argue that Nintendo is the single most influential pioneer of our beloved industry.
However, the 30+ years of releasing quality, well-made games haven’t been easy for Nintendo. Nintendo has had its fair share of ups and many down. At times, situations became so dire that many have prophesied the company’s demise. Despite facing the several adversities, Nintendo remains as one of the largest and most powerful gaming entities.
I often wonder how Nintendo is able to remain strong and relevant for so long, especially going through many lows. Even today Nintendo is experiencing their lowest of lows. To finally get some closure, I would like to explore how Nintendo has maintained relevancy and what we can learn looking into the future.
To start things off, I think it is important to document Nintendo’s struggles!
Nintendo’s first taste of adversity was when the gaming giant Sega emerged as a serious competitor in the hardware business. The Master System and Genesis posed a serious threat to Nintendo’s market share in the late 80’s and 90’s. The rivalry was symbolized by the battle between Mario and Sonic, and there was a constant tick for tack battles for supremacy. The rivalry was so intense and real that the Sega Genesis could have potentially defeated the SNES had Nintendo never made Donkey Kong Country. It wasn’t for the Rare’s revolutionary 2D platformer, Nintendo may have fallen to 3rd place in the home console space, falling well behind Sega and Sony. Sega successfully did what many thought to be an impossible feat, loosening Nintendo’s firm grip on the industry.
Situations only got significantly worse with Sony entering the gaming space with the PlayStation 1. Sony purposefully launched the PS1, two years before the N64 – allowing the fresh console to gain a significant head start in the console race and thus eating away a large portion of Nintendo’s market share.
It also did not help that Nintendo insisted on shooting themselves in the foot with their very own policies, especially with the N64. Nintendo opted for cartridge base gaming, which may go down as Nintendo’s greatest mistakes in its rich history. While cartridges had the benefit of better load times for games, but the high cost and low memory cursed the N64 as many developers turned their back on the archaic format. This resulted in major franchises, which was once an exclusive to Nintendo, finding a more welcoming home in the PlayStation brand.
Nintendo simply had no answer to the likes of Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo and Tekken 3. The restrictive rules set by Nintendo for developers were old and archaic. The PS1 went on to outsell all other consoles for the remainder of its life, including Sony’s newly-released PlayStation 2. The original PlayStation had exceeded 102 million units sold, completely blowing the Nintendo 64 out of the water.
Following the N64, Nintendo listened; they listened to the fans and developers giving them what they wanted: a powerful console, non-awkward controller with fewer developer restrictions in the form of the GameCube. However, the sour taste left by Nintendo’s previous policies had still not left the developer’s mouths. As a result, the GameCube was poorly supported by third Party publishers and poorly received by the market.
Traditional methods failed to differentiate Nintendo’s consoles from the growing competition! The N64 and the GameCube underperformed relatively to the competition especially against Sony. Nintendo found themselves in a dire predicament fighting for relevance in the home console business. In truth, sticking to traditional gaming wasn’t going to cut it if Nintendo wanted to remain relevant in the home console space. Once again Nintendo, found itself struggling to maintain its rank as leader in the kingdom they once owned. Faced with stiff competition and adversity, Nintendo needed an answer to solve their woes.
Nintendo answered back with the Wii revolution. The idea was formed with the traditional gaming mindset thrown out the window. The Wii advertised a gaming experience that no company could have envisioned, but Nintendo. It was a radical new idea that intrigued and excited the market. Nintendo was redefining the meaning of gaming, much like they did when they saved the industry.
The Wii has forever changed the way we look at video games, which once looked as a hobby exclusive for geeks and nerds. The Wii expanded gaming beyond the known borders. Nintendo opened the door for a whole new demographic to experience gaming.
While the Wii was criticized with concerns in the processing power department, that didn’t stop it from achieving major success. The inclusive philosophy allowed gamers to get more involved in gaming experiences and proved that gaming can be more than a simple button press. Without the Wii, gamified genre’s like fitness and dance would simply not exist.
The same can be said for the massively successful NDS. I can vividly remember the skepticism surrounding the touchscreen technology. Many had predicted that the PSP was set to conquer the handheld market, much like the console brethren had done in the home console space. However, Nintendo’s vision for the DS clearly prevailed! Part of the reason was the inventive software that captured the imagination. With the DS, Nintendo was inventing new gaming genre’s and experiences that were exciting and fun. Games like Brain Age, Nintendogs and Art Academy were all vast new experiences that caught the attention of the masses.
The Nintendo Wii U follows the same mantra of innovation that made the Wii and DS so successful. However, Nintendo has faltered in the execution of turning their vision into quality software. Only now, 18 months after the launch of the console, are we seeing great software that showcases the appeal of the GamePad. The unfortunate reality is that the Wii U may never reach the same heights of the Wii and DS, but Nintendo can still turn heads with their humble console.
We did see a little of that at this years E3. Nintendo risked it all this year, by once again foregoing the traditional E3 press conference for a more radical approach, opting for a Digital Event, Nintendo Treehouse Livestream, Super Smash Bros Invitational and Best Buy demo’s. The reception of the new E3 strategy has been overwhelmingly positive, with many suggesting that the competition should borrow some of their ideas. The Nintendo Digital Event and Treehouse have been beneficial from a business and consumer standpoint. Not only reducing the costs of an E3 stage and other expenses, but more importantly, giving gamers a more in-depth look at their favorite upcoming games. Resulting in Nintendo Winning 3 fan voted reward on IGN.
To answer the question, how has Nintendo remained relevant? The answer should be quite obvious right now! Nintendo has managed to reinvent gaming, themselves and the way they go about business when the going gets tough. In a market as fickle as the video game industry, evolving and adapting to the modern market is essential for survival. The big N has managed to evolve and adapt to the modern market, one only has to look at the dramatic difference between the Nintendo of 90’s and Nintendo of the 00’s.
They are the radical thinkers in the industry. They are a company with the proverbial balls to take a massive risk and to do something completely left field. Many say Nintendo isn’t what they use to be from the past and strangely they’re right. Nintendo has changed. Nintendo has improved. Their methods may not always be a home run, but their continued presence gives the gaming community a healthy balance. And in an industry where one wrong move could result at the end of a company making new, fresh ideas rare without major funding. Nintendo can consistency be relied on for that.